Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Christ Has No Hands But Ours

photo of the actual statue...sorry it's not bigger

I've seen a little bit of hubbub around the web on the subject of President Uchtdorf using a story in his talk that is basically an urban legend, an amalgam of several different tales. He didn't actually cite it as being true, of course. He merely said, "A story is told...", but it is definitely one of the variety that has made the internet rounds in recent years. I would guess that it has probably been taken as true more often than not. Personally, I had believed it was factual until just last year.

When I was giving my Relief Society lesson on Charity, taught from the Joseph Smith manual, I had planned to use the story myself. In checking to make sure it was a solid reference, I found to my dismay that it was not...at least, not entirely. Let me quote from my lesson what I actually learned:

"Several years ago, an urban legend circulated about a statue of Christ in Germany being bombed and repaired in a very special way. In the story, the statue was rebuilt, but when the time came for the artisans to redo the hands, it was decided to leave them off entirely, placing instead an inscription at the foot of the statue reading, 'We Are His Hands.' I loved this story and was quite sorry to learn that it was as false as its message was true.

"However, I have recently found (to my delight) that the WWII story was likely a distorted version of two absolutely true ones. A real statue did exist outside a church, namely Christ the King Catholic Church in San Diego, but the hands were broken off by vandals around 1980, not by bombing. Instead of repairing the hands, the church decided to put up a plaque at the base that states, 'I have no hands but yours.' This is a reference to a poem by St. Teresa of Avila that begins: 'Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.' The statue without hands is still there in San Diego, a powerful symbol of a great truth. We ARE His hands. And He wants us to use them in His service, which means in the service of others."

The other statue stands in a church in Soweto, South Africa. The damage to that one was caused by a police attack on a banned church meeting that took place during apartheid. The missing hands were not repaired because "We are Christ's hands in the world."

My personal guess is that the San Diego incident provides the etymology of the "statue in Germany" tale. Happily, I was still able to incorporate the beautiful message of a Christ without hands into my lesson. I really love the image of our needing to be His hands, which has always inspired me.

Here is the poem I wrote and used in Relief Society that day:

No soul could walk this earth alone
and still emerge believing.
The fertile ground for faith is found
in giving and receiving.

The love of Christ is ours to share
but we must make that choice.
As we speak to another’s heart,
we hear the Savior’s voice.

Each time we wipe a bitter tear
or smooth a furrowed brow,
we touch as much of godliness
as this world will allow.

We strengthen feeble knees and lift
the hands that are hung down.
We reach beyond the dirt and thorns
toward a heav’nly crown.

Our hope in Christ pours healing balm
upon the suffering spirit.
We preach forgiveness and acceptance
so that all might hear it.

And holding up the wounded,
we receive more than we give,
for when we put on charity,
we change the way we live.

To care for saint or sinner is
to wield the Savior’s powers.
On earth, His love must come through us.
He has no hands but ours.

Inspired by the words of Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582):

Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth; yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”


Jess said...

That's a beautiful poem- and I love the thought that when we serve ours are Christ's hands. Genius Sue!

Em said...

i loved all of the talks on motherhood, women, and parenting.

Caroline said...

Wow. What a powerful thought--that WE are His hands. This single thought is enough to give anyone still searching for purpose a clear direction.

karen said...

I'd never heard that story before, but I like it - true or not. It's a great analogy to a true fact. I need to do better in this area. Love your poem too - as always.

Karen Sue said...

we receive more than we give...
always...in so many ways...

jen said...

Wasn't conference amazing? Tucker said that it had to be the best conference ever (he is 17, but I was just happy he was listening so closely). I was especially touched by the painting and its implication and elaboration by President Monson. We are so blessed to have this guidance in our lives, and I often wonder how the rest of the world manages . . .

Momza said...

Elder Uchtdorff's talk was beautiful.
The analogy is perfect and true, no matter where the story's origins.
We are His Hands.
lovely poem too!

Amy said...

You really do your research for your lessons. I wish I could sit in on one of them. I love the story of the statues. Thank you!

Unknown said...

So true...every word. I love how Elder U pointed this out at conference.
You didn't do so shabby yourself.
Love ya.

Katie said...

I loved his message. I loved conference, so many good messages to learn from. So sorry I haven't commented in awhile, I haven't forgotten, just been crazy lately!

Connie said...

I had heard that story many times and didn't know it was an urban legend!
Love your poem. I wish I had that poem when we had our VT conference last month.
You're a very talented, insightful woman. Glad I found your blog.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that story many a time and I love this clarification. But I love your poem even more!

CB said...

Love the poem. I also like the storie(s) of the statue and the talk that Pres. Uctdorf gave was amazing.
It also reminds me of that song you used to hear alot called "His Hands" which is still one of my favorites!

alpinekleins said...

A beautiful poem cute lady! Thank ou for sharing it! It always buoys me up to do hard things when I remember it's not my work but the Saviors work that I'm doing. It really give me strength and courage!


Darlene said...

I always love to hear Elder Uchtdorff speak. He is just the greatest and I can certainly understand why President Monson chose him for one of his counselors. As for your poem Sue, words cannot express how humbled I become whenever I read one of your poems. your talent never fails to amaze me and this one really brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Jeremy said...

Thank you for looking into this. Your background is really helpful. Since you helped me with the origin of President Uchtdorf's talk I thought I'd send you a link with background information I just discovered regarding the Saint Teresa of Avila poem, which you might find interesting since you quote it and it seems to be an influence for President Uchtdorf's talk. Apparently the poem is falsely attributed to Teresa of Avila. This blogger has some interesting info about possible sources and some links about why it's not written by Saint Teresa: http://mimuspolyglottos.blogspot.com/2011/11/whose-hands-another-possible-case-of.html

Thank you again!

TrineK said...

I love this post and the background about the real statue, and I also especially loved your poem! Would you mind if I printed if off, giving you credit of course, to pass out as a handout at our upcoming stake women's conference? My topic is on this talk and your poem expresses the principle so beautifully. Thank you!

Susan Anderson said...

Yes, you may use the poem provided you include copyright information where it is clearly legible and also give oral credit when reading. I would also appreciate your including my poetry website address, but that is not required. It is susannoyesandersonpoems.com

I'm glad you enjoyed the poem, and I wish you the very best with your talk at the women's conference.


TrineK said...

Will do and thank you!!

Missuspablo said...

Hi! Love your poem about Christ's hands. May I use it for a talk? I will only be able to give verbal credit.
Thanks in advance!